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DuPont Pioneer Travel Scholarships

Congratulations to our recipients: 

 Katie Rogers University of Florida

Katie Rogers
University of Florida

 Suraj Sapkota University of Georgia

Suraj Sapkota
University of Georgia


Three scholarships were awarded to graduate students from other universities to attend the 2018 Texas A&M Plant Breeding Symposium. Scholarship recipients will present their research by sharing a five minute rapid oral presentation and scientific poster on Thursday February 22, 2018. 

Introduced in the year 2016 to foster interaction between graduate students studying plant breeding at Texas A&M and the students studying plant breeding or a related science at other institutions. The program will encourage information exchange on research ideas and promote networking among students at the symposium. The scholarship is solely administered by the symposium organizing committee and is fully funded by DuPont Pioneer.

 Katie Rogers

Katie Rogers

Katie Rogers

Ph.D. Student, Horticultural Sciences

University of Florida

Bio: Katie is a fourth year PhD student at the University of Florida under the guidance of Dr. José Chaparro in the Fruit Tree Breeding and Genetics Program. Her research is focused on characterizing flowering in citrus with the goal of developing biotechnology applications to shorten the generation time in citrus and accelerate breeding efforts. Katie grew up on a citrus and cattle farm in Wauchula, Florida and received her bachelor's degree in Horticultural Sciences, Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Florida.

Characterization and Induction of Early Flowering in Citrus

Abstract: One of the biggest bottlenecks in traditional citrus breeding is the time it takes in between crosses for plants to gain competency to flower. Citrus juvenility can last from 1 to 18 years. This research is focused on characterizing differences between citrus species with variable juvenility periods and studying the genetic alterations that occur as a seedling matures. Knowledge gained from these studies will be utilized to achieve the overall goal of developing an efficient system that will expedite improvement and release of new citrus varieties.

Initial studies to characterize flowering networks in citrus have focused on analyzing the expression of FLOWERING LOCUS T (FT) and other members of the phosphatidylethanolamine binding protein (PEBP) family. To identify phylogenetic relatedness between PEBP proteins we compared homology of Arabidopsis proteins with those of C. clementina and C. sinensis. This led us to identify 8 PEBP gene family members in C. clementina and 10 in C. sinensis. Phylogenetic analysis of these genes allowed to determine relatedness between proteins and predict their utility in applications for reducing breeding time.

Using quantitative PCR we studied transcript levels of flowering-associated genes in a family of seedlings segregating for extremely early flowering to determine which genes are differentially expressed in early and late flowering individuals. We have also developed a transgenic chemically inducible system for induction of FT in citrus as well as a viral vector to deliver the FT transgene to already established citrus. These constructs have been delivered to citrus and are currently undergoing evaluation.

 Suraj Sapkota

Suraj Sapkota

Suraj Sapkota

Ph.D. Student, Plant Breeding

University of Georgia

Bio: Suraj is a Ph.D. student at University of Georgia, Institute of Plant Breeding, Genetics, and Genomics. He is working on wheat diseases (leaf and stripe rusts) for his PhD research. His research emphasizes the identification and characterization of the genetic basis of resistance to leaf and stripe rust in soft red winter wheat (SRWW) cultivars. He received a Master of Science degree from North Dakota State University in 2015. His MS thesis was titled: Identification and genomic mapping of resistance to bacterial leaf streak disease in wheat. He received a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from Tribhuvan University, Nepal in 2010.

Identification of a Major QTL Conferring Resistance to Leaf Rust in Wheat cultivar AGS2000

Abstract: Leaf rust (LR) disease, caused by the fungal pathogen Puccinia tritcina, is a destructive foliar disease of wheat worldwide. Gene combination of Lr37/Yr17/Sr38 has been used in Georgia (GA) to prevent the loss from LR; however, with the emergence of new virulent races, these genes have lost their effectiveness. AGS2000 and P26R61 are the most common soft red winter wheat (SRWW) cultivars in Southeastern US, and have been used as good sources of resistance to leaf and stripe rusts, and powdery mildew. To characterize the genetic basic of LR resistance in AGS2000, a mapping population of 178 recombinant inbred lines (RILs) has been developed from a cross with P26R61. This population was genotyped using a combination of SSR, DArT, and SNP markers, and a total of 2734 markers were used for the construction of genetic map. Phenotypic evaluation of parents and RIL population was conducted at the seedling stage against a prevalent race of LR in Georgia. QTL mapping revealed a major QTL on chromosome 2BL which explained 20.32% of total phenotypic variation in AGS2000. Additionally, a minor QTL was also detected on chromosome 5B. QTL on 2BL is most likely to be a novel gene, and can be used in marker-assisted selection for LR resistance.


  • Applicant must be a full-time graduate student at a United States collegiate affiliated institution.

  • All applicants must upload their "Presentation Title”, "Presentation Abstract," and other required information into the student competition sign-up form.

  • All applicants must send their research presentation electronically no later than the day prior to the scheduled presentation.

  • Selected applicants must submit a biographical PowerPoint slide.

  • Students in the Texas A&M University system are ineligible to apply.

  • Applicant must agree to arrive before 4 PM on February 21, 2018 in College Station, TX

 Selection Criteria

  • The originality of the research presented, which may or may not be explicitly related to the symposium theme
  • The quality of the writing (including clarity, grammar, and understandable)
  • The interest of the subject matter and approach
  • The suitability of the conference presentation (including appropriate length, clear results obtained, and appropriate conclusions).
  • The Graduate Student Organizing Committee will evaluate blind abstracts to select the three awardees.

*In fairness to other participants, abstracts that are over the specific word limit will automatically be disqualified.